A new report says there is little evidence to suggest al-Shabab extremists are heavily involved in the illegal ivory trade, contrary to some widely circulated assertions that the Somalia-based extremist group receives significant profits from elephant poaching.

The report by the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based research center that focuses on defense and security issues, says any al-Shabab involvement in the ivory trade has probably been small-scale and opportunistic.

Cathy Haenlein, a co-author of the report, says the alleged link between the Islamic extremists and elephant poaching is "potentially highly damaging" because it risks diverting from efforts to counter organized crime groups that direct the illegal trade.

The report, released this month, was based partly on dozens of interviews with experts on al-Shabab and wildlife trafficking.